When was the last time that you can remember the president of the U.S. talking about the regulation of accountants? Also, when was it that virtually every newspaper in the country had a front-page article on accountants? Or, for that matter, when was there an ad run by the AICPA and the state CPA societies that reads:

"EACH DAY--EVERY DAY--IN BIG CITIES AND SMALL TOWNS. AWAY FROM THE HEADLINES.WE ARE HERE. AUDITING FINANCIAL STATEMENTS. PROVIDING TAX SERVICES. AND DELIVERING BUSINESS INSIGHT. COUNTED ON FOR OUR INTEGRITY. PASSIONATE ABOUT GETTING IT RIGHT. AND INTOLERANT OF THOSE WHO BREAK THE RULES. WE DEPEND ON YOUR TRUST AND WORK TO EARN IT EACH DAY, EVERY DAY--CPA--THE 350,000 MEN AND WOMEN OF THE CPA PROFESSION."

What I find particularly amusing is the fact that in reaction to the downfall of Enron, what is often being discussed is the essence of what it is to be an accountant. The AICPA and state societies, unlike other initiatives, are not focusing on a vision of what the future accountant should be, but rather, are targeting the traditional services that accountants provide. It is the legislators who are hold hearings as well as the others who are questioning the new role being taken by accountants.

In recent years, accountants--the so-called most "trusted advisors--have been viewed by many as the gateway to their clients. It's almost as if the client base can be bought or rented from the accountant and converted into a cash cow. The inherent problem is that trust is not a commodity and accountants are professionals subject to a standard apart from the bottom line grading system of business.

Admittedly, we are in a brave new world and it will be important that new professional standards are developed in a comprehensive and focused manner that will allow accountants to continue to perform as real "trusted advisors." Otherwise, that term will simply become a marketing slogan and be recognized as such to the accountants' detriment.


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